Lives in Suspense – the Realities and Hopes of Posted Workers in the
Posting has become a highly debated topic within the European Union due to the potential
exploitation of posted workers. Especially posting in the construction sector may take the form of
an employer-organised labour mobility. In the context of EU-enlargements from 2004 onwards,
posting has enabled employers to take advantage of the increasing socioeconomic differences
within the EU by circumventing labour market regulation of the host country (Lillie 2010, Cremers
2011). Posting may therefore appear as the perfect way for employers to exploit the increased
inequalities within the EU. At the same time however, posting involves a marked dilemma for the
workers. Whilst trade unions and native workers in the old member state host countries talk of
social dumping and exploitation (Wagner 2014), workers from the newer member states may find
posting economically attractive. As such, posting may pit workers against workers in a spiral of
However, this article argues that posting may also represents a mixed blessing from the perspectives
of posted workers. On the one hand they may wish to improve their economic situation through
posting, but on the other hand they also have hopes for and dreams of a stable life at home. Drawing
on a survey with 200 posted construction workers in Denmark and in-depth interviews, the article
suggests that posting has become a new life mode for many lower-skilled construction workers.
Posting for shorter or longer periods of time has in this way become an integrated part of their lives
1 Both from FAOS, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- an almost permanent temporariness which employers can exploit. At the same time, the data
shows that the posted construction workers have future plans and hopes for a ‘normal’ life in their
home country. In that sense, the express a kind of social suffering linked to their current situation,
indicating that their satisfaction with the situation – however economically favorable – may not be
that great. As such, the article questions the description of posted workers as hyper-flexible
(Meardi et al 2012) - and thus hyper-exploitable.